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Frequently Asked Questions

Collecting The Sample

Using an Apple Corer to get sample:

Push down, twist and pull out a 3” core. Brush away organic matter and take a sample within the top 3” of soil ideally with an apple corer.  Collect from a minimum of 5 different areas.

Using a Teaspoon to get sample:

Take 1 tsp from a minimum of 5 different areas.

For any sample

At the most, fill bag halfway with soil and leave the other half with air, so the microbes stay alive.  If you have more soil collected than half a bag, you can pre-mix all in a sterile container and then use some to half-fill a bag.

Please label on the outside of the bag (permanent marker or pen with tape).  Put only your soil sample with air in the bag.  Clearly write date, your name/business and sample type and/or code name.

Each plastic bag containing a sample should be clearly labeled with a Sample Name that matches the Sample Name provided on the Microscope Analysis Submission Form

If submitting a sample for an area

Draw a map labeling various areas and label sample bags accordingly.  Make any notes on your map that would be helpful for insight into the areas. 

Take 1 tsp from a min. of 5 different areas from a small compost pile, or 20 different areas from a large windrow.  Take the teaspoons from various depths and locations, mix and place in a sandwich-sized plastic bag, half-full with air.

Take 3 core-samples around each plant between the stem and drip-line.  Put all 3 core-samples in one bag and mix, leave air in bag.

For a single glance into the overall health of an area, sample cores should cover area adequately and get mixed into the same bag. 

For example, a core sample from 5 different areas and mixed into 1 bag for a quarter acre or smaller.  Repeat for up to an acre.

Take 3 core-samples from 5 areas per acre, making 5 total bags, half-way filled of soil.  Select areas at random that are well distributed and are representative of the whole field. 

For different types of areas within a field that you want sampled:  Draw a map and label the various  area types, like healthy, weedy, bare, sick etc.  Take 3 core samples, and place in 1 bag, from each type of area until you have about a 40% representation of those areas. 

For example, if you have 10 healthy areas, sample 4 of those areas and get 3-core samples from each area mixed into 1 bag.  Label bags according to the map. Like H1 for healthy area 1, and W1 for weedy area 1.  Other unique areas in question, like a ridge-line or depression, can be labeled and put into different bags if desired to be tested.  

Compost tea is more sensitive so we can look for someone closer to your area to test or if nearby we can pick up the sample in person and process the assessment on the same day.

Use a clean, empty non-breakable container (like a small plastic water bottle) and fill 1/3 of the way full.  This leaves air for the microbes.  Screw cap on tight.  Label container clearly.

First call, text or email with the number of samples that will be sent in, and when the anticipated arrival date is.

We will reply with the first available date to accept your sample(s) and an invoice will promptly be issued to your email. We accept all major credit cards including Visa, MasterCard, American Express (AMEX), and Discover.

Once payment has been received, you will then be instructed on how and where to mail in your samples.

Package your sample(s) in a small box or padded envelope to protect it from impact, which may break the seal of the bag, resulting in compaction of the sample. Please note: you are responsible for all costs related to the packaging and shipping of the sample material.

Generally, the sooner a sample arrives, the more accurate assessment results will be. During cooler months, a 2-3 day arrival window is sufficient for mailing solid samples. For warmer months, we recommend next day delivery. Important: Please be sure to mail your sample so that it arrives during the weekdays of Monday – Thursday

You may decide on which carrier to use to mail in your sample(s). See rates for popular carriers: FedEx Shipping RatesUPS Shipping RatesUSPS Shipping Rates

Your samples will be tested on the same day as received and results emailed to you on the next business day.

We can accept up to 5 samples per shipment.

Our Complete Soil Food Web Assessment includes quantification of the following organism groups:

  • Actinobacteria
  • Total Bacteria
  • Total Fungi
  • Oomycetes (disease-causing fungi)
  • Protozoa
  • Nematodes

It is essential in order to know the functioning life that exists in your soil to know how to manage the growth of your plants. In turn you will have higher yields, reduced irrigation, no chemical applications and protection for the pollinators. 

Soil life environment that is made of plants, organic matter, bacteria, protozoa, fungi, nematodes, arthropods and even birds and mammals. When in balance, it establishes a resilient ecosystem and builds soil fertility naturally.


SFW’s library of short animation clips sum up all of the terrific lectures, scientific studies, methods and techniques they have studied meticulously and are putting into practice!


SSBA’s Mission is to promote knowledge and development of the soil food web, visit their website here